Thursday, February 05, 2009

“Oh, It Is Love” / Hellogoodbye


Mining the Fifties and Sixties is one thing, but what about 21st-century love songs? Well, they’re a little harder to find, but here’s one I rooted up in my daughter’s CD collection. She made me promise not to call it “emo” – apparently that’s the kiss of death for any self-respecting alt band these days – so I won’t call it that.*

These guys in Hellogoodbye look about 12 years old and they’re really cute—in fact their lead singer, Forrest Klein, kind of has a Buddy Holly look going (and you know I’ve always been a sucker for rockers who wear glasses). Though they seem infatuated with electronica, beneath the tech effects lies a pretty catchy ska-flected sound. Most of this perky syncopated track is just Forrest and a trippy ukulele (or is it mandolin?), and it’s totally sweet.

This isn’t exactly a Happy In Love song—the love is still new and insecure, and it seems to be a long-distance relationship, always a shaky proposition. (“Oh, your heart may long for love that is more near / So, when I'm gone these words will be here / To ease every fear / And dry up every tear / And make it very clear” – it cracks me up, how he uses those multiple rhymes like nails to tack down this love.) Reading Hellogoodbye’s history, I see that members keep quitting to go back to college, so I’m guessing they’re in that demographic where long-distance romance is common. And as we all know, the biggest threat to long-distance love is close-at-hand hook-ups.

These guys still believe in love at first sight – there’s plenty of conviction in lines like “Oh, it is love / From the first time I set my eyes upon yours thinking / "Oh, is it love?" (Inverting the “is” and “it” is pretty nifty word play, isn’t it?) Frankly, I don’t know many guys who ask themselves if a relationship is love, not until they’re hopelessly backed into it – but hey, whatever. I’m sure this line of reasoning sells more records to the female teen listener.

They do get a lot more physical than Buddy Holly ever did, constantly talking about holding her tight and longing to feel her embrace and pressing his lips against hers. “There is still a bit of your skin / That I've yet to have kissed” he remarks – yowza.

And to sew up the girl market, Forrest slows the song down to add, wistfully, “Oh say, wouldn't you like to be older and married with me? / Oh say, wouldn't it be nice to know right now that we'll be / Someday holding hands in the end.” I know how I felt when I heard the Beach Boys pursue this same logic years ago in “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” – I was ready to sign up. (Hoping, of course, that it would be Dennis Wilson and not weird Brian who’d appear on my doorstep). The Beach Boys, though -- they never had a singer with glasses.

* But it sure sounds like emo to me.

Oh, It Is Love sample

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